Characteristics of the End of the Age (Matthew 24:9-14)

© 2011 Tony Garlanda

Mat. 24:3-14

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."1

Previous times in Matthew 24

  • Mat. 24:3-8, Jesus gives three sure signs (previous presentation), one now past and two yet future
    1. Luke: “when you see . . . Jerusalem surrounded by armies”. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Titus of Rome in A.D. 70.
    2. Matthew and Mark: “when you see . . . the Abomination of Desolation” standing in the holy place, where it ought not to be - yet future
    3. Matthew, Mark, and Luke: the sign of the Son of Man in heaven which will be global and unmistakable, marking the unambiguous return of Jesus
  • Jesus also warned against deception:
  • Characteristics of the End of the Age (Mat. 24:9-14)

    1. Sequence of presentation

      Do these verses pertain to the beginning of sorrows, the interadvent age within which we presently find ourselves? Or do they pertain to the time of the end (after the second sure sign)?

      1. The Time of the End

        I believe verses 9-14 pertain primarily to the time of the end.2

        1. The grammar of the passage implies the passage concerns the time of the end:
          • The word then (τότε [tote]) which introduces verses 9, 10, and 11, indicates sequence. The things Jesus describes in these verses most naturally follow upon the “beginning of sorrows” in verse 8.3
          • A final then in verse 14 closes the sequence, “then the end will come.”
          • The characteristics described in verses 9-14 are sandwiched between the “beginning of sorrows” and “the end” of the age.
          • The following section (vv. 15-22) is linked to this section by the word therefore. It is because of the dangerous characteristics of the end of the age that Jesus then moves on to give explicit instructions concerning the safety of those living in Judea when the end of the age is unambiguously signified by the “abomination of desolation” -- the “second sure sign.”
        2. Love grown cold due to a marked global increase in lawlessness. This is not a continual trend throughout church history, but a specific characteristic of the end.
        3. The gospel message emphasizes “the kingdom” which seems to have in view the expected arrival of the millennial kingdom upon the return of Christ to take up the throne of David.
        4. Persecution is simultaneously global. As the church father Origin observed, “when the things foretold by Christ shall have come to pass, then there shall be persecutions, not as before in places, but every where against the people of God.”4
        5. Although examples of many of the characteristics mentioned in this passage can be found throughout church history, not with the global focus and intensity described here. 5 6 7
        6. The global accomplishment of the gospel presentation, just as prophesied in Revelation 14:6, the context of which places it within the final seven years.
        7. Scripture predicts an apostasy at the time of the end which is both specific and intense (2Th. 2:3; 1Ti. 4:1).8 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons . . .” (1Ti. 4:1)
        8. The persecution of believers described during this time includes betrayal among professing Christians indicating a time of great motivation to defect and turn on one another.
        9. In Mat. 24:13 the phrase, “he who endures to the end”, when viewed in light of the original questions of the disciples, would seem to primarily have in view the end of the age.9
    2. Secondary Signs of the End of the Age

      The characteristics of verses 9-14 serve as secondary signs of the end of the age.

      1. Global persecution of Christians
      2. Great spiritual deception
      3. Loss of trust
      4. Global proclamation of the gospel

    Persecution

    “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.” (v. 9)

    1. A word about the prophetic use of “you”

      Some who oppose a futuristic interpretation of certain passages often make the claim that certain words or phrases in a prophetic passage demand a near fulfillment in the lifetime of the immediate recipients of the message. We'll see this when we consider the meaning of the phrase “this generation” in verse 24 (Matthew 24:34). In the passage before us, the question arises as to whom Jesus is referring to in His use of the 2nd person pronoun “you”? Is it required that the things described in the passage apply to His disciples within their lifetimes?10 Fortunately, we have numerous examples from elsewhere in Scripture that “you” can go far beyond the initial recipients of the message to take in those many generations later who also have ears to hear the message preserved to their times:

    2. The World vs. Christ

      “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.” (v. 9)

    3. Betrayal among Christians

      Not only will Christians be hated and persecuted by all nations, they will also be betrayed by those whom they thought were their own.

    4. The Jewish context

      This global hatred of God will find its culmination in the intense persecution of all who are believers in Christ. However, as the greater context of this verse and the book of Revelation make clear, a large contingent of believers at the time of the end will be Jews.

    5. The Antidote (Luke 6:22-23)

      Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.14

    Spiritual deception

    “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” (v. 11)

    Loss of trust

    “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (v. 12)

    Global proclamation of the gospel

    “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (v. 14)

    Summary

    At the time of the end, it appears that trends which have manifested in different places and at different times during the interadvent age will simultaneously climax on a global scale:

    1. Unparalleled global hatred and persecution of Christians, especially Jewish Christians.
    2. Dramatic rise in lawlessness resulting in the erosion of trust between people.
    3. A peak in spiritual deception.
    4. The polarization between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light will be more visible than ever before.
    5. There will be no room for lukewarm, half-hearted belief as in previous periods: the intense danger associating with professing Christ will see to it!

    It is incumbent upon us as believers to get serious about our walk “while it is still day” and to preserve and pass on the Truth of God’s Word in every way we can so that those who’s destiny it is to live through this sobering period described by Jesus will have every spiritual advantage.


    Endnotes:

    1.NKJV, Mat. 24:3-14
    2.In concert with Luke’s emphasis on the near-fulfillment of the destruction of Jerusalem: 1) the parallel passage in Luke 21:12-19 is said to take place, “before all these things” -- prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70; 2) prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, Christians would also be hated, betrayed, and persecuted, but Luke makes no mention of hatred on the part of “all nations”; 3) there was not yet a global Christian witness, nor does Luke mention global evangelization as here; 4) the persecution mentioned in Luke emphasizes betrayal by family members and relatives rather than among the professing Christian community.
    3.“The occurrences of the adverb translated "then" or "at that time" (τότε) in verses nine and ten introduce further description of the end time.” Ref-143, 271
    4.Ref-1232, Origin, 808
    5.“The conditions depicted in verses 9 to 14 fit perfectly with the first half of the unfulfilled seventieth week of Daniel; and therefore it is quite possible that the Rapture should be fitted in between verses 8 and 9. On the other hand, similar conditions have taken place again and again during the so-called Christian centuries, but they will be accentuated in the time of the end.” Ref-1124, 316
    6.“But the whole passage might be referred to the end of the world.” Ref-1232, Remigius, 808
    7.“Christ now mentions signs that will fall in the second half of the Tribulation (Mat. 24:9-14).” Ref-0202, 400
    8.“Then there will be great apostasy when many shall be stumbled, and faithful servants of God will be betrayed by their closest relatives.” Ref-1124, 317
    9.Although it almost certainly includes the companion idea of the end of life for those who remain faithful under persecution until death (Luke 21:19).
    10.If the answer were to be “yes,” then we no longer have any sure signs concerning the return of Jesus and the end of the age -- since they presumably everything here described must necessarily have happened within the lifetime of the disciples!
    11.NKJV, Jn 15:18-24
    12.Ref-1269, 30-31
    13.Ref-1232, Chrysostom, 806
    14.NKJV, Lk 6:22-23
    15.“the idea of the kingdom, while extending throughout the world, turns our thoughts to the land of Israel. It is “this gospel of the kingdom” which is here spoken of; it is not the proclamation of the union of the Church with Christ, nor redemption in its fullness, as preached and taught by the apostles after the ascension, but the kingdom which was to be established on the earth, as John the Baptist, and as the Lord Himself, had proclaimed.” Ref-0893, 172
    16.“And the sign of the Lord’s second coming is, that the Gospel shall be preached in all the world, so that all may be without excuse.” Ref-1232, Jerome, 808
    17.“He adds, For a witness unto all nations, in accusation, that is, of such as believe not, they who have believed bearing witness against them that believed not, and condemning them.” Ref-1232, Chrysostom, 807


    Sources:

    NKJVUnless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
    Ref-0202Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).
    Ref-0893John N. Darby, Synopsis of the Bible, Volumes 1-5 (New York, NY: Loizeaux Brothers, 1950).
    Ref-1124Ironside, H. A., Expository Notes on the Gospel of Matthew (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1948).
    Ref-1232Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels collected out of the Works of the Fathers - Vol. 1 Part 1, 2 and 3, St. Matthew (Oxford, England: J.G.F. and J. Rivington, 1841).
    Ref-1269Antonio Gallonio, Torture: Torments of the Christian Martyrs (New York, NY: Walden Publications, 1939).


    Links Mentioned Above
    a - See http://www.spiritandtruth.org/id/tg.htm.